Dario Robleto’s project at Artpace continues his interest in popular music culture. Titled The Polar Soul, he considers the installation the third in a trilogy of exhibitions (shows at Finesilver Gallery, San Antonio and ACME, Los Angeles preceded his Artpace residency). In this series of work, Robleto critiques the shifts in late 20th century popular music—including Peace Rock, garage grunge, Motown and Top-40 pop. Each exhibition has been marked by a performative aspect that celebrates the creation, and subsequent breakup, of the artist’s bands. Themes of production and fan culture in popular music have proven rich territory for Robleto’s investigations of love, tragedy, desire and hope.
The Polar Soul draws upon technically-oriented, heavily produced electronic music, which is often accused of being without soul. Robleto applies the metaphor of a Frankenstein-like laboratory to the fabrication of popular music. Exhibited like a cabinet of curiosities, Robleto presents a range of handmade sculptures crafted from the material of recorded music. In a collection of works derived from the Peace Rock movement, geological forms predominate: Bob Dylan’s album “The Times They are A-Changin’” is literally melted down to become marrow in a slice of dinosaur bone; a chunk of amber is embedded with pieces of vinyl from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Give Peace a Chance;” Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney’s recording of “Ebony and Ivory” takes form as Nanosaurus Rex skull; an audiotape of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” is melted down and combined with amethyst crystals as a geode. Hundreds of such objects are displayed in museum cases, creating a “rock museum.”
In his largest work to date, If We Do Ever Get Any Closer At Cloning Ourselves Please Tell My Scientist-Doctor To Use Motown Records As My Connecting Parts b/w The Polar Soul, Robleto fills a sealed room with home-made blue crystals. Visible through a Plexiglas window, the fluorescent-lit room appears like a laboratory growing organic forms—an image the artist likens to the growth and life of a band. Special tubing connects the room to a cabinet containing objects made from Motown records in the gallery, perhaps to draw breath or extract soul from these potent objects.